Studies

Legal Stand The construction of an isolating wall around Ain El Helweh camp contradicts with the human rights principles.
06/12/2016

 

          Recently, the Lebanese authorities (late October 2016) have started constructing an isolating wall around the western point of Ain El Helweh camp whose area is 1 km2 and contains about 100,000 Palestinian refugees. This step is considered as the last step in which the camp is no surrounded completely with cement walls preventing the entrance and exit of any person except the four main gates and other minor ones of the camp. This has lead to dissatisfaction and condemnation from the people in addition to the political Sidonian parties. Authorities justifications came out in order to prevent any intruders to go in and out the camp which considered as a good step to preserve Ain EL Helwe and its surroundings. It adds tough loads on Palestinian refugees especially after UNRWA contractions and laws by the Lebanese authorities by preventing the refugees from their rights concerning the rights of ownership and work.
 
          The Palestinian Association for Human Rights "Witness” monitors the surrounding circumstances concerning the construction of the isolating wall, it monitors the effects of the construction along with the  legal position on the construction of the wall as this step may be in line with Lebanon's international commitments or not.
 
 
Information about the wall:
          The idea of the wall construction to isolate Ain El Helwe from its surroundings was not new and not exclusively on the western point of it, but it was a fully-integrated and mobile project whose implementations went through many steps first from the eastern side to isolate "AL- Villat” area from Ain El Helweh in addition to the steel gates for individuals.
There is another wall extended from Sirob crossroad and Al Nabaa’ till the tips of Jabal Al Halib in addition to the new checkpoints. This is continued with a new wall constructed on all southern lines of the camp and alongside Jabal AL Halib reaching Darb Es Sim, resulting in a whole surrounding wall from all directions after the southern and eastern parts are finished. In a nutshell, no one can go in or out except from the military checkpoints (Western gate, southern Darb Es Sim gate, Al Taamir southern gate, and the northern gate of governmental hospital).
Maybe it was normal because the security procedures were mostly strict, but with the implementation of this project and entrance of soldiers to new places in addition of building a new military towers has raised peoples’ anger and condemnation in which this problem was trending on social media within its first hours.
According to witnesses and live records of our delegate, it was obvious that there is a 9 meters height military towers of concrete in addition to the 5 meters height wall along with the western side of the camp from Al Joura Al Hamra till Darb Es Sim.
Observers have confirmed that 60% of the project is accomplished, and the rest represents 40% of the western side of the camp of a distance length of 2 km. Until now, there are 3 towers in the western side of Ain El Helwe.
Lebanese authorities stand:
          Yet there is no official stand of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, Ministry of Defense, nor the Lebanese army commander. Most of the stands were stands of parties refusing this project especially in Saida. Most of the stands were announced by the Mufti of Lebanon Abd Al- Latif Daryan,  Mufti of  Saida Salim Sousan, former Prime Minister Fouad Al Saniora, and Bahiya Al Hariri.
          Until now, no observance of the reason around the construction of the wall (who is the responsible party, who supported it, and how much it costs?). According to press releases1and security resources, the aim of this project is to fill the gaps to prevent those who are "wanted” from sneaking out the camp.
Consequences concerning the construction of the wall and the towers:
 
1-    The construction of cement walls and tower will transform the Palestinian Refugees camps into real prisons in which people can’t enter the camp except through the military checkpoints, knowing that Ain El Helwe is the biggest camp containing about 100,000 refugees.
2-    It will lead to severe psychological damage to refugees since they will feel themselves as accused and controlled.
3-    Confirms the limitation of movement.
4-    It carries a real meaning of discrimination since there are no walls around areas with suspects living in these areas.
5-    This wall could attain the misery and deprivation of people inside the camp leading to immigration demands and escaping the miserable life in Lebanon.
6-     It confirms the Lebanese sight of security among Palestinian camps as it contradicts the human rights principle especially the rights of liberty and equality.
 
          It is not clear of who announced the implementation of this project, neither the Lebanese Council of Ministers nor the Lebanese Ministry of Defense in addition to the ambiguous party who supported such project with an unknown budget.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in its 13th article: "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State”, knowing that Lebanon is committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the article says: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
          To build an isolating wall is considered as a phase of discrimination. For this, the international Convention to Eliminate of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965 has stated in its 1starticle the following:
 
1-    The term "Racism” is defined as distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference of race, color, linage, national or ethnic origin which confirms the bad attitude towards human rights and liberty practices in all domains of public life "Economy, politics…”
2-    This convention is not validated in country where racism or discrimination is practiced toward people.
          The 12th article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1996 states that
1-    Everyone has the right to freedom of movement inside the borders of any state in addition to the right of choosing an appropriate residence.
2-    Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his country.
3-    Rights should not be limited with constraints and it should be essential to keep the national security, general system, public health, public morals, even the rights and freedoms of others which should be in line with other rights mentioned in this covenant.
4-    No one shall be arbitrarily deprived from entering his own country.
General Comment 27, article 12 (freedom of movement) states:
1-    Freedom of movement is an essential right to keep one’s development, and it acts with other rights in the covenant as a result of examination the reports of involved countries and other individual notices. The committee also stated in its general comment 15 "Foreigners are involved in this covenant, 1986” to what related to the articles 12 and 13.
2-    According to article 12, limits permitted to be applied should never restrict the freedom of movement, and they are only in necessary conditions as stated in article 12, text 3  within the need of completion with other rights.
3-    Involved countries should represent information about the legal rules and administrative legal  practices related to the text of protected rights "article 12” in their reports to the committee concerning the submitted issues in this comment. Reports should mention means of some alternatives if these rights are restricted.
          Security procedures should not contradict with the aspect human rights principles and if applied, there should be conditions:
1-    It should be issued clearly within the laws or decisions.
2-    It should be limited in time and space without affecting other rights.
3-    It should be done when the related issue is finished.
As a result, the construction of an isolating wall around the camp contradicts with these conditions which forms an ambiguous situation related to emergency and general circumstances.
Relationship with the Palestinian camps "Security”:
1-    December 1, 1997: The commencement of the siege around Tyr camps: Al Rashidieh,  Al Bass, and Borj Al Shamali. Closing the main gates, preventing construction material to enter camps, making new checkpoints on other gates, and subjecting anyone who enters with unlicensed construction material to the military court.
2-    2002: Ain El Helwe Siege, which resulted in limiting the gates for entrance and exit.
3-    May 20, 2007: The outbreak of Nahr Al Barid camp (north Lebanon) battles which lead to a complete siege around it with military checkpoints. Battles resulted in total destruction of the old camp which 55% of the camp is reconstructed till now.
4-     2010: Prevention of entering with construction materials in Borj Al Barajneh Refugee camp in Beirut, South District.
5-    2011: Detecting a plan to separate Borj Al Barajneh and Shatila camps by a wall.
6-    October 2016: New releases about the construction of a wall around the western points ofAin El Helweh camp.
7-    2007: Settling cement cubes among Tyr camps (Bass and Al Rashidieh) where individuals can enter only and only one main gate to every camp(Al Rashidieh, Al Bass, and Borj Al Shamali).
Summary:
1-    Constructing a separation wall around Ain El Helweh camp contradicts with Human Rights Principles and targets the freedom of movement in addition to the tough psychological consequences on people. This theory deals with such communities discriminately from any humane approaches.
2-    It is not clearly revealed who made this decision either who supported it financially.
3-    Constructing a wall of separation will increase the trust issue between both sides which will not achieve the target of the Lebanese authorities.
4-    This step will increase the Palestinian refugees’ suffering as it increase the case of marginalization leading to more misery and deprivation.
 
 
Recommendations:
 The Palestinian Association for Human Rights "Witness” calls:
1.     The Lebanese authorities to stop finalizing this wall in addition to remove it completely and search for alternatives which could respect the human rights aspects and refugees rights as to respect the International Convention of Human Rights.
2.     The Lebanese authorities to discuss with the Palestinian parties about the humanitarian cases especially rights of ownership and work.
3.     The United Nations especially the UNRWA for a quick and active interference to protect the Palestinian existence under the overall meaning of "Protection”
4.     The Lebanese, Arab, and international human rights organizations to shed the light on the Palestinian refugees’ suffering, to attain human rights aspects in Lebanon, and to refuse all the discrimination aspects toward refugees.

Beirut, November 25, 2016

 

Palestinian Association for Human Rights "Witness”

 

1-      Document HRI/GEN/1/Rev.3, August 15, 1997 (page 20) text 8